Poetry Out Loud

ArtsWA joins other state arts agencies in partnering with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation to support Poetry Out Loud, a poetry recitation competition that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. By participating in the program, students also master public speaking skills and build self confidence. Each state hosts a competition annually, culminating in a national competition among the state winners.

Langston Ward of Mead High School, in Spokane, won the Washington State Poetry Out Loud finals on March 9 and has moved on to the national finals this coming Monday and Tuesday, April 29 and 30, in Washington D.C.  He will recite “The Gift” by Li-Young Lee, “The Bad Old Days” by Kenneth Rexroth, and “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” by Walt Whitman. Watch a video of Langston’s performance of the Whitman poem below.  This is the second state championship for Ward, who represented Washington state in the 2012 national finals. He placed in the top nine students nationally last year.


Langston Ward recites  “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” by Walt Whitman:


More than 23,000 students from 76 schools in Washington state participated in Poetry Out Loud this year. Following classroom-level and then school-wide competitions, top students from the schools continued on to one of seven regional finals, held in Northwest Washington, Southwest Washington, Central Washington, Eastern Washington, Southeast Washington, and the Puget Sound region.Thirteen students advanced to the state finals, which took place Saturday, March 9, at Theatre on the Square, in Tacoma. Through three rounds of poetry recitations the students performed works selected from an
anthology of more than 600 classic and contemporary poems. Participantswere judged by a panel of experts in poetry and performance. The panelists scored each student based on presence, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding, accuracy, and other criteria.
Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the Washington State Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the Poetry Foundation. This is the eighth year that high school students in Washington state took part in Poetry Out Loud, a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry. This year, the Poetry Out Loud National Finals will award a total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends, with a $20,000 college scholarship for the National Champion.

(from the press release from ArtsWA)

Poetry Out Loud goes multimedia with a live webcast and viewing parties

You can watch the entire semifinals and finals through a live, one-time only webcast at www.arts.gov. Or make plans now to gather fellow poetry fans and host a Poetry Out Loud Webcast Viewing PartyRegister here and find tips on hosting your party, promotional materials, and details on other viewing parties around the country.

The NEA is taking Poetry Out Loud online on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, hashtag #POL13. For more information on the event, webcast, or viewing parties, visit arts.gov or call 202-682-5606.

Good Luck, Langston!


Jeanne Yeasting



She wanted a diacritical mark on her forehead.  Something to set her apart.  Not in a lightning bolt something-dreadful-happened-to-me-as-a-child and now I’m cursed (or blessed?) sort of way.  An umlaut, perhaps, or an aigu or grave.  Some mark to keep her from getting lost in the thicket of talk, to show where emphasis resides.  Something stochastic, ekphrastic, lingua-fantastic – some barking mark a listener could discern, distinguish, know – that varies with a conversation’s weather.  A signpost to visibly map her moods, to show the world she’s listening to whatever random, perchance profound, perchance unlikely, words are being said.  Something to say “right!” – attention paid; the right note struck, and resounding.



Jeanne Yeasting is a poet and visual artist.  She lives in Bellingham, and teaches creative writing at Western Washington University.

David D. Horowitz



I’m an ounce
Of flit and bounce,
An inch
Of hop and flinch.
I chirp and chatter,
Perch and scatter,
Alert, still:
The world can kill
And think it doesn’t matter.


“Sparrow” is reprinted from ArtWord Quarterly and Resin from the Rain (Rose Alley Press, 2002).


David D. Horowitz founded and manages Rose Alley Press. His most recent poetry collections, published by Rose Alley, are Sky Above the Temple and Stars Beyond the Battlesmoke. His poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including The Lyric, Candelabrum, The New Formalist, The Smoking Poet, and Exterminating Angel. David has edited and published two Northwest poetry anthologies: Limbs of the Pine, Peaks of the Range and Many Trails to the Summit. He frequently organizes poetry readings in the Puget Sound region and in 2005 received the PoetsWest Award for his contributions to Northwest literature.

Amber Nelson


……..In this bright gray
light, the blinding day,
listen to the whispering
of angels. Tittering wings and wordlessness float in strings
of sound. Such trembling
music. The pavement shines.
I ride the gales, wind and night,
they push against, slip through skin—gripping each cadence—
so hairs stand, ascending pins.

It’s warm, still
inside the chill
of fall.

But still, in motion. Still inside
the weathered chaos. Stillness.
This is —happiness?

………….Everything shines
………….when it rains.
When it rains
and right after
………….Everything shines:

the Pacific’s quiet arousal.

The Kingfishers rouse
for quiet repose, in
blue winged days. In praise
………….I build sunlight
under fingertips,
in each rib. Feel it lit
inside the wick of grim rubbings,
uncertain burns: a light singing.
In air. In air. Remember—
………….this light, its organ
warmth, sounds brass chords,
a mast of fog in rooms
that melts away. Hold on—
………….to such crisp, wet

Everything shines:
sun sheering leaves so you can see:
the shake of white: the shake
of still, of empty white: sleet
of lupine time: fields: the gorgeous
tickle of clean sheets: a sweep
of sea aligning beach: a lingered
quiet drunk in mint: balloons
suspending: stars.

………….O obvious stars!
Their light uncovers
all that’s honied, sweetly
shining, shining.

………….Everything shines.
Each sun or star or skin
the leaves the wind and
eyes each dream idea mourning
lover scissor headlight touch

It’s always been this way,
lost inside a simple forgetting,
brash midland breachings
of each, our gauzy seams

Still. Warm. Shining.

………….Joy—each wheel
a spindle slick on these wet
leaves the fall, which falls
a maple in my stride, a tail whip
that gasps in lungs and stays
aglow—a pink and golden hue
blazed within my skin, in ribs,
a lift, a blessing.
………….I ride into the day—


“As A Threshold Brook” is reprinted from Taiga Issue A.


Amber Nelson is the co-founder and poetry editor of alice blue, a well as the founding editor of alice blue books. Her work can be found variously online  and in print, and she is the author of 3 previous chapbooks: This Ride is in Double Exposure (h-ngm-n books), Your Trouble is Ballooning (Publishing Genius), and Diary of When Being with Friends Feels Like Watching TV (Slash Pine Press). Her first full-length book, In Anima: Urgency is forthcoming in May from Coconut Books.

Suzanne E. Edison

The Fantasy
………….after Louise Glück


Walking the halls with my daughter,
her IV pole like Asclepius’ staff, snake
twined, she rolls past

curtained cubicles, other children
with cancer, Crohn’s, cauldrons
of misinformed codes, cellular traffic jams,

bodies rising against
themselves. Hydra monsters
slither out their noses, spiral from chests,

wrapping arms like bindweed.

While medicine drips—a cup
of Gorgon’s blood might heal—injecting
sunny day regularity like morning coffee—

we mothers clutch Medusa’s mask,
stroke stubble-crowned heads, calm
buzzing needles of fear.

We call upon our powers of invention
imagining we are the ones
who escape unharmed and

ward off time in cartoon
fantasies, where Roadrunner
is never road-kill.



“The Fantasy”; Ars Medica, Spring, 2012


Suzanne E. Edison’s work appears in print: in her small books, Tattooed With Flowers and What Cannot Be Swallowed; The Examined Life Journal of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine; The Healing Art of Writing,Volume One; Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine; Ars Medica; Face to Face: Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism and Awakening; Pearl; and Crab Creek Review, among other places. Also found online at DermanitiesLiterary Mama, and KUOW.  She lives in Seattle, Washington.


Kathryn Hunt



All through the night,
all through the long witless hallways of my sleep,
from my hospital bed
I heard the newborn babies cry,
bewildered like new arrivals anywhere,
between worlds, unacquainted with
the names of things.

That afternoon a kind nurse named Laura
had taken me for a stroll to exercise
the red line of my wound . . . .
We stopped by the nursery window
and a flannel-swathed boy
in a clear plastic cradle was pushed to the glass.
We peered at him and said, “Welcome.
You’ve come to Earth.”
We laughed and shook our heads.

All through the night,
all through the drug-spangled rapture of my dreams,
I heard the newborn babies sing,
first one, then another. That bright hiss,
those soft octaves of wonder,
the fierce beginning of their lament.


“The Newborns” is reprinted from The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Kathryn Hunt is a writer and filmmaker. Her stories and poems have appeared in Rattle, The Sun, Willow Springs, Crab Orchard Review, and Open Spaces, among other magazines. She is a director of documentary films, including Take this Heart, a feature-length film that was honored with the Anna Quindlen Award for Excellence in Journalism. She recently completed a memoir, The Province of Leaves, the story of a mother and a daughter and the tangled, maddening, and abiding claims of family. She teaches writing classes in memoir at the Writers’ Workshoppe in Port Townsend. She is a passionate gardener and loves to spend as much time as possible on the hiking trails in the Olympic Mountains near her home.

Arlene Kim

Hunt, Peck


A tyro, at the keys, I start a field
with stalks, bent.
Venture in, hunting, pecking,
to see, what? —now:

chickens. Inelegant, graceless.
Beaky pullets. Pillow-
breasted, neck and caw, claw,
jab. Kernels pricked, break.
Dropped and pecked. Uneven
stabs. A nib, a nibble. Sharp pecks
per seed. Each seed a letter.
Pock. Pock.

Into the woods I walked. I went alone.
Though I was afraid, I pretended
not to be. Every falling leaf
made a sound. And every bird, landing,
lifting again. I, too. Up
ahead in the path, a doe
emerged from a copse.
I stopped. She, too.
I stared and stared as long as she let me.


“Hunt, Peck” is reprinted from What have you done to our ears to make us hear echoes? (Milkweed Editions, 2011).


Arlene Kim grew up on the east coast of the U.S. before drifting westward. Her first collection of poems What have you done to our ears to make us hear echoes? (Milkweed Editions) won the 2012 American Book Award. She lives in Seattle where she reads for the poetry journal DMQ Review and writes poems, prose, and bits between.

Student Poem

Sliver of a Life
by Niyathi Chakrapani

She had told the reporter,
“I loved him, I loved him,”
But the newspaper only printed it once.
There was also
A quote from his favorite baseball player;
Some clammy, optimistic Bible text;
His birthday, a mere memory now;
Awards from college, received years ago
In subjects he did not pursue;
Names of family members he had not talked to in years;
Meaningless compliments;
His job, which he hated more than one could imagine;
A blurry picture with too much sunlight and exposure;
And his love of the Yankees,
Quite understated in saying he merely “loved the team.”

She had told the reporter,
“I loved him, I loved him,”
With the tears that she abhorred
Sprinting down to her fragile chin,
Pouring down like livid rain.
The reporter feigned pity and said,
“I am sorry, ma’am. This must be hard.”
She wanted to punch his contrived smile.
There was anger and sorrow in her eyes,
The most pitiful of combinations.

And when she read the newspaper that day
She took all the liquor in the house
And smashed their bottles
Till the shards became paste,
Sprinkled across the now-chipped wooden floor
Like freshly fallen snow.

The little square of words,
A banal sliver of a life,
Or a stanza trying to compensate
For a beautiful elegy.
The meaningless banter of a child,
Repartee and badinage,
A cruel joke played with good intentions
On the most mournful of souls.

For in that little square of words
There was no mention
Of how he always got ice cream on his nose,
And laughed as she wiped it off and licked her finger;
Of his yellow, pirate-like grin
Which could light up the room
More than the whitest and straightest of insincere smiles;
Of how he refused to leave the stadium
After the Yankees lost
Because he couldn’t bear to be in his home, in comfort,
With the thought of their failure looming in his mind;
Of how he cooked Thanksgiving dinner
Because she had a fever that weekend,
And though they both ate burned turkey that year,
It was the best turkey they ever had.

As she told the reporter,
“I loved him, I loved him,”
She knew she would never drink again
For the drunkenness of another
Was what had killed her love.
After that vow she grabbed the last bottle of brandy
And threw it over her fence,
As far as her slender arms could bear,
Knowing her pain lay in that bottle
And wishing it could shatter as easily.
There was anger and sorrow in her eyes,
The most pitiful of combinations.

She ran back to the newspaper,
Intent on ripping it to shreds,
But could not bring herself to harm
That little square of words,
A banal sliver of a life,
The last dregs of a forgotten eulogy
Spoken only in her mind.

For on that paper there was printed
A quote from his favorite baseball player;
Some hopeful Bible text;
His birthday, a loving memory now;
Awards from college, received years ago
In subjects he wished he had pursued;
Names of family members who loved him;
Innumerable compliments;
His job, which he only continued out of love;
A picture taken in a beautiful meadow;
And his love of the Yankees,
Quite understated in saying he merely “loved the team,”
But stated nonetheless.
And bottommost of all there was printed
Three simple words, more innocent without repetition,
Quoted with a name:
“I loved him.”

So she clutched the paper to her heart
And let fall her abhorred tears.



Niyathi Chakrapani is a 15-year-old poet from Sammamish, Washington who received four regional gold medals and a national silver medal for her literature in the Scholastic Young Artists and Writers national competition, as well as several local awards in the KCLS library system’s Rhyme On! competitions and the Issaquah Youth Board Poetry Slam. Niyathi loves to write poems about her deepest feelings and observations about the world, as well as to put herself in the shoes of other people and write poems from their perspective. She also loves to write and perform songs, volunteer, and eat chocolate.

Student Poem

Queen’s Room
by Katie

the queen’s room like
parking in a sea of China

the silver tin on a table
opening memories

the small tinge on the pillow
is like a useful unnoticed
antidote being stored away

I smell solid gold in the queen’s

is the queen home? because
I’m snooping in her room

I’m not supposed to
be here. See me wiggling out


Katie wrote this poem as a third grader at View Ridge Elementary. She recited it last night for Caroline Kennedy and a sold-out audience at the Seattle First Baptist Church. The members of the Sanislo Elementary School Poetry Club and a Seattle University student also recited.  The event was sponsored by the Seattle Public Library and Elliott Bay Books for National Poetry Month. What, you didn’t know it was poetry month?